How to provide 24-hour cover

Samaritans provide a 24-hour helpline offering emotional support to anyone who wants to phone. How the 24-hour-a-day service is provided is soon to change.

At the moment, we take it in turns to do the ‘night shift’ – manning the phone from 11pm to 7am. Opinions on the night shift vary – Artangel offers an interesting perspective on what it’s like which is well worth a read. Samaritans websites mention it in various ways, such as this from Guildford branch:

…a night shift – manning the phones from 11 pm till 7 am next day. So if you see a colleague at work, a family friend or a neighbour looking a bit bleary eyed sometimes, perhaps that’s why. We are one of the few 24/7 charities in Britain – and thus callers are welcome equally at 3 pm and 3 am.

Even the most enthusiastic admit that it can be difficult and tiring. But there are plans for this to change. Citing Health & Safety concerns, it is planned to break night shifts up – making sure noone has to stay awake all night, or do shifts longer than six hours. If we split the night in two, half the volunteers can sleep while the other half man the phones – swapping at 3am.

There is an unavoidable logic to this – what happens if there is another accident caused by a Samaritan who hasn’t had enough sleep? But it does mean that we will need twice as many volunteers in the Centre to man the night shifts. Given the problems filling the rota as it is, this is likely to make things difficult.

In the meantime though, the night shifts stand, so I’m off to do mine.

Comments are closed.